by Ana Michalowsky
Ten Practical Suggestions
Skyline Cemetery, 2019
from Never the Same: Coming to Terms with the Death of a Parent by Donna Shuuman
- Get the Information You Need
You may be surprised at the healing that can take place, not just for you, but for others who are keeping secrets or have held feelings inside.
In the end, I bring you all
here, to the hill that is not
my home. I bring you
one by one, alone. This
is how I know
- Create Rituals and Traditions for Remembering
The biggest obstacle may not be what, but giving yourself permission to do something.
we’ve reached a beginning. I spread
the moving blanket—the one
I found in the attic & use
whenever I venture outdoors—
over the grass, the graves.
- Make a Memory Book, Box, Container, Table, or—?
Never underestimate the power of symbolic objects.
It’s a beautiful view
from up here. He can see
the golden sunsets, chose this place
for the pine, so the rain
would scatter across his ashes.
- Expressive Arts
We should also consider giving sorrow paint and clay and markers and long walks and punching bags and music and dance and crayons.
I show you the bench, carved
with my family’s names. Beside mine:
I will be able to imagine you here,
written, age 6, for my Father, although
now he is gone, I cannot.
- Continue a Connection with Your Parent
Contrary to popular belief, death does not end a relationship. While it ends the ability to connect in this physical flesh-and-blood plane, it doesn’t preclude the possibility of ongoing connection.
The pine tree continues to grow.
The grass turns stiff with summer.
I take your hand to lead you
from the marble to the wool. There,
you tell me it’s a beautiful view,
- Help Others: Volunteer
There’s something very therapeutic about volunteering.
leaning back on those skinny arms.
Time after time, I agree.
This place, though known, becomes
perpetually new. I keep it.
I harvest its beauty for you.
- Write It Out
There’s evidence that it’s not just expression that’s curative, it’s also about feeling and understanding you are not alone.
I share the milk tea I made
in my childhood home. We pass
the glass back & forth as it cools.
I ask you about your childhood.
I ask you about your home.
- Take Care of Yourself
It’s important to make a conscious effort to take care of yourself.
With time, though, we fall
into the silence of birds, calls
I am yet to name or to learn.
It’s warm up here, under the sun.
The city is dwarfed by the trees.
- Make Something Good Happen
Is there any way you can commemorate your parent’s life, transform their death, and help the world, even if it’s just one person at a time?
If you’re lucky, when we leave,
I’ll take you to the woods
where I walk barefoot, composing
these lines. That’s how you’ll know
I want you to see me; that’s how
- Find Meaning in Your Story
Almost every child or adult who has a death asks, Why did this happen to me?
I’ll mistake you for home.
Ana Michalowsky lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. She received an MFA from Pacific University, where she studied with Chris Abani and Marvin Bell, and a BA from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. Her work has received a Vaclav Havel Scholarship from the Prague Writers Program and a 2017 Publication Award in the Atlanta Review’s International Poetry Contest.